Sunday Gulch Trail, part of the Black Elk Wilderness area, has grown to become one of the “must hike” trails in the Black Hills over the past few years, as it rightfully should be. Thousands visit the Custer State Park area every year and this hike is a perfect place to spend a few hours enjoying nature and the beauty that the trail offers. At every time of the year, you are sure to leave the area with images, sounds, and feelings that will always bring you back to Sunday Gulch.
How do you get to Sunday Gulch Trail?
The Sunday Gulch Trail is located in Custer State Park. The trailhead is sitting in a notch off of the Sylvan Lake Trail. From Hill City, take Hwy 385 heading south. At about 3 miles take a left, turning onto Hwy 89. From this point continue about 6 miles and you will reach Sylvan Lake, also the entrance to Harney Peak, and if desired, Little Devil’s Tower, Cathedral Spires, and Poet’s Table.
The trail stretches 2.8 miles in total length. It is definitely a moderate to strenuous hike the entire duration. If you hike counter clockwise, the most difficult portion is at the beginning. You cross the creek multiple times so be sure to have shoes that can get wet. You also traverse through rocks, boulders, and stairways that may or may not have man made hand rails. It is not uncommon to have snow and/or ice in the area until June so the trail can be very slippery in many areas. Once you leave the boulder filled portion of the trail, you hike on a mostly dirt packed trail. Tree roots and rocks throughout, so be prepared.
The animals and plants on the Sunday Gulch trail are similar to those throughout Custer State Park, though this trail sees many visitors, which, in turn, make the animals scarce. Most likely, birds, squirrels, and maybe deer, is all you will see for wildlife. You hike through Ponderosa Pine, Birch, Spruce and Aspen trees. There is a creek, that was dammed in the 1890’s forming Sylvan Lake. The rocks and boulders that you pass through are mostly granite formations. It is also common to see many wildflowers all along the trail.
There is an entrance fee to get into the area as it is a state park. A week long pass is $15. A yearly pass is $30. The yearly pass will include a half off sticker for a second pass. In my opinion, a very worthwhile investment.